The core memes of the Christian gospel emerge from the story of Jesus. As early Christians contemplated Jesus they, of course, drew implications for life, community, and spirituality. But, they also grappled with the meaning of Jesus for life, the universe, and everything. They speculated that the Jesus story was singular but also universal. His life (birth, suffering, crucifixion, and resurrection) was experienced as 33 years in space time. But his life was also understood to occur in the presence of God orthogonal to space-time. This orthogonal singularity is understood to be immediately proximate, immediately embedded in every moment/location in space-time. In a particular way, this singularity is present in every heart across all generations, tribes and nations, past, present and future. This omni-temporal, omni-present, omni-humanic reality describes the spirit meme. The spirit is Christ present. The spirit is breath itself: life, beauty (glory), and love. The singularity is universal.
The incarnation meme seeks to provide a solution for the problem of God. Any god worthy of the name is transcendent. In transcendence, god is unknowable, indescribable. We are left only with agnosticism — an analogical feeling that there must have been a creator, but we can have no knowledge or even awareness of such. Yet our experience of life is full of the mystery of transcendence. As we live, create, and love, we are awed by something to which we give the name, god. This god is immanent: present in everything, known in everything. The pantheist simply says that god is everything, emergent from the processes of the universe. Yet despite our growing knowledge of the scope of the universe, there is something fundamentally limited and un-godlike in pantheist memes. The incarnation meme invokes a way out of this. It describes a singularity in which union is established, in which the transcendent God becomes immanent. It suggests that the universe is only the universe by incarnation, by Christ. It is the incarnate, resurrected one who creates, sustains, redeems and is known in every moment of space-time (Hebrews 1:2).
The suffering and resurrection memes are tightly paired. The suffering of Jesus provides a context and initiates a conversation for addressing the problem of evil. While it does not address the origins of evil, it fully acknowledges the evil incumbent in all life and in all living. It posits death as the expression and consequence of evil. The resurrection meme then proposes a solution to this problem. In Christ there is a life, a new creation in which evil has no place and death has lost its sting. In this view, life, beauty and love have a meaning, a validity, an expression, a continuity, a realization that explodes our current frame and perspective. The problem of evil is fundamental to our contemplation of the meaning of life and existence. Some suggest that there is no evil, simply a consequence of entropy. For others, it is simply an implication of the struggle for survival. The gospel memes of suffering and resurrection suggest that there is a solution for evil, and that death is not the end of life, love and beauty, while not making light in any sense of the existential reality of evil and suffering.
It is in the “In Christ” meme that the gospel impacts our own sense of place and meaning. Incarnation suggests that the spirit makes Jesus immanent to every moment of my existential experience of life, beauty and love. I walk through my own encounter with evil and suffering, internal and external, with Jesus. I find new life in the resurrection. Union with Christ and its closely linked memes of the spirit, are at the heart of existential Christian belief and life. The gospel is not a game at which a select few are invited to play, and effective optimization (following and not following of rules) results in even fewer winners. Rather, the spirit/Jesus is intimately present and engaged with each one of us in each moment and story of our lives. Our story takes place in, around, and through Jesus’ story.
In future posts we will revisit these memes repeatedly. Here we simply try to provide an overview that will serve to ground other discussions. In the previous post we discussed a pervasive sense of wisdom. It becomes evident that the memes of incarnation, suffering and resurrection are foundational to our search for wisdom. To rephrase a proverb, the seeking of gospel is the beginning of wisdom. These memes will also become the context for our next post on the crisis of unbelief, where we will discuss how seeking occurs in the tension between belief and unbelief.